FORMER soldier Phil Waqairoba has wished his wife a happy 40th birthday - from thousands of miles away.

Phil, 42 has left the Army andis a now close protection officer working around the world.

He has joined forces with The Gazette in wishing his wife Stephanie a very happy birthday.

The pair live in Colchester, having been high school sweethearts from their final year at Alderman Blaxill, in 1988.

They were married four years later, just before he began his Army basic training, and are now parents to Jasmine, 22, and Jordan, 17.

Phil, originally from Fiji, said: “Stephanie has stuck with me through thick and thin, through various deployments around the world including Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Iraq and Afghanistan.

“Now I’m still overseas doing close protection work and she never complains but just cracks on with the normal daily living back home while I'm away for months at a time.”

He added: “So due to this long time apart I have missed many a family occasion such as birthdays, Christmas and more recently missing Jasmine’s wedding and of course my beautiful wife's 40th birthday.

“So I guess in a nut shell, I would like to take this opportunity in wishing Stephanie Waqairoba a happy 40th birthday and to let her know how much the kids and I appreciate all she has done for us in sometimes difficult times.

“We love her very much and I look forward seeing her when I next get home.”

Stephanie celebrated her 40th birthday yesterday.